British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned racist social media attacks against black players on the British football team after they lost 3-2 to Italy in the 2020 European Championship on Sunday.
After Italy and Great Britain stayed 1-1 under the regulations and extra time, the teams were forced into a penalty shoot-out to decide the game. Black players Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka missed shots and gave Italy the win.
While most of the comments on social media were positive about the UK team, the three players received racist comments immediately after the game.
On his Twitter account, Johnson said the team deserved “to be lauded as heroes and not to be racially abused on social media. Those responsible for this appalling abuse should be ashamed. ”Likewise, London Mayor Sadiq Kahn said on his Twitter account that racism has no place in football or anywhere else. He said those responsible should be held accountable.
The Football Association, the leading organization in British football, also issued a statement condemning all forms of racism and standing by its players.
London police tweeted they were aware of the comments, called them unacceptable and said they were being investigated.
England’s players took a strong stand against racism during the tournament and got on their knees ahead of their games, including Sunday’s final. Not all fans supported the gesture, some were booed in response.
While Prime Minister Johnson urged fans not to boo the players, some critics felt that his reaction was not strong enough, and that only encouraged racists. In an interview with SKY News on Monday, former British soccer player Gary Neville blamed Johnson for the reaction.
Neville said: “The Prime Minister said it was okay for the people of this country to boo on players who were trying to promote equality and defend themselves against racism. It starts at the top. And so for me I wasn’t the least bit surprised that I woke up with these headlines this morning. “